Hold the question, until you live into the answer ~ Rilke

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The river and I are friends

I’ve lived in Elgin, Illinois since 1989.  I moved here right out of college for my first teaching job.  I’ve been minimally involved in the community; hearing stories of Elgin’s rich manufacturing history while chaperoning my class on field trips to the Planetarium, or the Gail Borden Library.  Elgin has a rich manufacturing history.  For example, the Elgin National Watch company, 1864-1967, located along the Fox River.  There is also the Shoe Factory, 1891-1929,  located on Congdon Ave.  Parts of the these factories remain abandoned or restored and repurposed.

Recently, a poet friend of mine, Chasity Gunn, did a reading at the library on the theme of the river.  She shared her original work and invited me to share mine.  The poem below “The river and I are friends” was written for this occasion.  In the poem I reflect on the life of the river, Elgin’s laborers, and the work of the apprentice.


The river and I are friends


The river and I are friends

My steps are careful – light and tender

My heart heavy one day, a spring in my step the next.

There, a path in the earth, leads me deeper to the bank where I grab the oak tree limb

Balancing my spring or my burden.

How lucky the Oak, of all the places to be offering itself to the nest and the breeze.

How lucky the roots- gripping and absorbing the energy of the river from below

(The oak and I are friends)

The oak and the river are present, unburdened by time, or requirement.

The ducks are here,

The fish are too

And, of course the beaver’s home is chaos to the eye.  A shored-up hut.  Tight-tangled branches strewn like pick up sticks.

How tempted I am to peek inside.

But the river and the Oak know why I’m here.

I’ve come to listen to the past.

Here along the water’s edge live the voices and dreams of the shoemaker,

the watch welder,

The calloused hands of laborers who laid the tracks along her path.

The work of progress on the backs of those who’ve led me here to wonder.


The window faces the river

Sitting in the hard spindle chair my Grandfather crafted

The floor boards announcing the arrival of my weight.

I hold in my hands the vision I’ve called into being.

It’s come to pass.

The molds, bespoke, articulate, precise

From the start made of wood, scraps of Oak from a fallen tree, I have seen from my window.

Reaching for the metal tin

This is the time for soothing.

The salve of the apprentice rolled onto tender finger tips.


Tomorrow begins production

Adhesive, material, punch

Patterns and threads.

And tapping, tapping, tapping.

Treadle stitching, turning the wheel in the right direction

Peddle and check

Peddle and check

The treadle rhythm is a seesaw and I am hypnotized

Cut, slice

Pull, stretch,

Press, cork,

knot, paint,


To feel the tension, where leather and stitch bind to contain flesh, muscle, tendon and bone

Where sole meets the Earth

The ease of each step carried forward into the world.

This is the River

This is the Oak

This is the job of the apprentice.




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This way, my love

When I’ve forgotten how to Pray

And the words won’t come

Give me two,

Forgive me


When my heart searches for

The comfort of gratitude, but

My mind invades the space with



And angst

Give me two,

Restore me


When loneliness threatens to

Imprison me

And the only color is gray,

When I’ve lost my way back from

the illusion of separateness,

her depths threatening to

Claim me

Give me two,

Receive me


When I forget, you point me to the poets

New England, Belfast

Caged or Free

Ancient, Asian, Greek

And my heart cracks open

Once again


There you are.

There I am.


And we sit

And I pray.

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Working with Trauma, “Tickled Pink” by Kevin Kling

I recently heard an interview/podcast with Kevin Kling on Krista Tippet’s radio show.  He shared a poem he wrote called “Tickled Pink.”  If you are recovering from Trauma or dealing with PTSD you know how difficult it can be to express what is happening in your mind and body.  It’s best dealt with creatively.  This is evident in Dan Rhema’s artistry “I close my eyes to see.”  The left brain creates and expresses what the right brain fumbles to explain, reason, judge, make excuses for, down play, bury, or deny.  Words can’t usually touch the depth of dealing with loss and trauma.  However, Kevin Kling’s Poem comes closer than anything I’ve ever read.

Kevin says…when you were feeling your best, my mom would say, “You’re in the pink,” which meant that your insides were pink. And so this poem is called…..

“Tickled Pink”

“At times in our pink innocence, we lie fallow, composting waiting to grow. And other times we rush headlong like so many of our ancestors. But rush headlong or lie fallow, it doesn’t matter.

One day you’ll round a corner, your path is shifted. In a blink, something is missing. It’s stolen, misplaced, it’s gone. Your heart, a memory, a limb, a promise…… a person. Your innocence is gone, and now your journey has changed. Your path, as though channeled through a spectrum, is refracted and has left you pointed in a new direction. Some won’t approve. Some will want the other you. And some will cry that you’ve left it all. But what has happened, has happened, and cannot be undone.

 We pay for our laughter. We pay to weep. Knowledge is not cheap. To survive we must return to our senses, touch, taste, smell, sight, sound. We must let our spirit guide us, our spirit that lives in breath. With each breath we inhale, we exhale. We inspire, we expire. Every breath has a possibility of a laugh, a cry, a story, a song. Every conversation is an exchange of spirit, the words flowing bitter or sweet over the tongue. Every scar is a monument to a battle survived.

 Now when you’re born into loss, you grow from it. But when you experience loss later in life, you grow toward it. A slow move to an embrace, an embrace that leaves you holding tight the beauty wrapped in the grotesque, an embrace that becomes a dance, a new dance, a dance of pink.”

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Winter spirit, prolonged night, muted speaks

Walks with burden along her barren path

Wrapped in warm gray, while the ridged branch creaks

Blows bitter air about, releasing wrath

Transformed solemn worship song rising

Labor for fertile grounds desired change

Requests for her blessed authorizing

Silences, returned from eternal range

For her wisdom seeks but trust, less is lost

Replace evicted presence of peace sought

Reflect, to muse, to co-create the cost

Veiled souls landscape no longer distraught

Emerging threshold, world of between-ness

Coarse and tender, Winter Guardian bless.